The South Wing, had heating in it, been put in before the war by Rosser & Russell. We had all the drawings in the office, I don’t know where they are now. But it was oil, but it was pre-war and it was quite crude, and it was terrifying. Because the boilers, two large boilers were not self-igniting, they weren’t automatic. So to light them you had to turn a pump on, and open valves so the oil went in there, and throw a burning oily rag into the boiler to ignite it. It went off with a terrific bang and then it carried on. It was all a bit scary.
Well, at that time, there was chap called Harry, His Lordship’s chauffeur and it was his job for some reason, to look after the boiler. I think it was the ’62, ’63 winter, which was very severe. Somehow or other that didn’t get done. He didn’t light the boiler and the whole lot froze; there were 40 or 50 radiators split. It didn’t do much damage to the water, because it all froze, but it really damaged the heating system. So before His Lordship could move into there, something had to be done about that. So luckily they called on me to look and to decide what to do. So of course the boiler house was pre-war; that had to be completely re-designed, new boilers and cylinders and pumps. It was amazing really, they didn’t go out to tender. They had complete trust in what we did; and of course, that was a terrific responsibility. I was quite young and took that responsibility very seriously.
So how old would you be, do you know?
I was 24 in 1960. So I’d be about 26, 27 years old. Quite a lot of knowledge, but experience was fairly limited. We’d worked in small houses; Knole was completely different. Because the drawings weren’t that good, and they changed rooms for His Lordship, various things were moved about. I spent nearly six months up here for an hour or two every day, finding out what was there, doing the drawing and noting all the pipes and everything. Eventually I got the system designed and it took about a year, I think it was 1967 that the boilers went in. His Lordship and his family all moved in.